In recent months, Pakistan has faced a critical juncture regarding the deportation of Afghan nationals, sparking a heated debate on national security, human rights, and legal obligations. This debate has been further ignited by Justice Ayesha A. Malik’s observation emphasizing Pakistan’s international legal obligation, as dictated by United Nations conventions, to uphold the rights of refugees. This observation came in after a petition was filed in the Supreme Court by politicians and rights activists, arguing that the decision to deport Afghans en masse is illegal, unconstitutional, and violates fundamental rights.
Against the backdrop of a caretaker government’s decision to deport Afghan nationals, including political asylum seekers, a legal challenge has been raised, highlighting the complex interplay between constitutional interpretation and the fundamental rights of individuals. The contention that these individuals are being treated inhumanely has brought the ethical and legal dimensions of the issue into sharp focus. The cases of mistreatment with many Afghan citizens residing with proper documentation including Proof of Registration cards (PoR) and Afghan Citizen Cards (ACC) have been surfacing since November.
This case highlights the violations of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, specifically Articles 4 (right to due process), 9 (right to security of person), 10 (right to a fair trial), and 25 (equality before law). As the Pakistani state has its duty to ensure the protection of individuals born in Pakistan who hold claims to birth right citizenship under Section 4 of the Citizenship Act, 1951, and consistent with the 2021 Islamabad High Court ruling in the Hafiz Hamdullah Saboor case, so the federal government is required to refrain from detaining, forcibly deporting, or harassing such individuals.
The case also underscores the need for a delicate balancing act between legitimate national security concerns and the imperative to protect human rights. While Pakistan faces challenges in managing the influx of refugees, its commitment to uphold international law and protect vulnerable individuals must remain paramount.